The nation of Zilargo is a study in contradictions. On the surface, it is an easily accessible, remarkably open nation, filled with beautiful architecture, friendly inhabitants, and a peaceful yet energized feeling that welcomes visitors to stay and unburden their weary souls.
Zilargo itself is seemingly idyllic, with song and cheer taking the place of the violence and crime common in the other nations of Khorvaire. The truth is far more complex and rarely realised except by the gnomes themselves. Behind the civilised facade, the sharp minded gnomes known for their thirst for knowledge revel in the most complex political machinations, secret wars of words and subtle blackmail.
Migration from Thelanis
Gnomes originated on the plane of Thelanis, with the other races of the fey such as elves and the eladrin. At some point in the past, during one of the frequent coterminous periods between Thelanis and Eberron, a large amount of gnomes migrated to Khorvaire.
While some of these gnomes spread across the continent, most of these gnomes settled in an area on the southern portion of Khorvaire. Perhaps drawn to the familiar surroundings of The Shimmerwood Forest, the gnomes settled between the Howling Peaks and the Seawall Mountains, congregating mainly along the coast of the Thunder Sea. These gnomes were much more primitive than the gnomes of today.
Though the land was inhabited by tribes of kobolds, including the Haka’jhar tribe. The gnomes managed to push the kobolds back to the two mountain ranges to the north of their territory. The gnomes also clashed with the mighty Dhakaani Empire, using guerilla tactics to try and prevent the goblins from entering their lands.
The Dhakaani Empire’s Ghuurash Codex provides details about “jungle rats” that infested the coast between the Howling Peaks and the Seawall Mountains. The gnomes failed to stop the advance of the goblin empire, and many were either enslaved or forced deeper into the wilds. But the hobgoblins found conquest was far easier than occupation, as the gnomes used guile to trick the goblins into fighting each other. Many scholars believe that the gnomish resistance would have eventually been crushed were it not for the invasion of the Xorian forces led by their Daelkyr lords.
During the Daelkyr War, tribes of gnomes were subjugated and enslaved by the Daelkyr fleshsculptors. These gnomes now call themselves Deep Gnomes, or Svirfneblin in the gnome language, and many still reside deep within Khyber. These gnomes seek to amend themselves for the heinous crimes of their ancestors. It is believed that some svirfneblin live deep beneath Zilargo, and remain hidden from sight. They believe themselves “unclean” and undeserving to live with their surface brethren. Occasionally, a deep gnome will travel to the surface and seek out life as an adventurer in a way to atone for the past sins of his or her people. Unlike their surface brethren, Deep Gnomes possess darkvision, and an innate ability to resist spells. They have a supernatural ability to avoid detection.
Although the alliance of the Dhakaani Empire with the orcish druidic order of Gatekeepers led to the victory and banishment or imprisonment of the Daelkyr 9,000 years ago, the Dhakaani Empire itself would never recover. Greatly diminished, the remnants of the Dhakaani Empire retreated allowing the gnomes time to grow. These more primitive gnomes took over the abandoned cities of the Dhakaani and the Daelkyr, devouring their knowledge and adding it to their own.
The Era of Gnomish Expansion
As gnome society grew, families aligned themselves into different clans. Clan names include the Adredar, Clebdecher, Dalian, Davandi, Harlian, Korran, Lonadar, Nezzelech, Santiar, Sivis, and Tarliach clans. These clans slowly joined together to form three city-states: Trolanport, Korranberg, and Zolanberg. Though the gnomes still faced threats of kobold tribes and the remnants of the goblin empire, they were able to raise these great city-states.
The gnome clans spread out, becoming one of the first seafaring races of Khorvaire. The gnomes came into contact with all the other races of Khorvaire. When the humans first came to Khorvaire from Sarlona 3,000 years ago, the gnomes extended their hands in friendship. The gnomes, experts in both bureaucracy and linguistics, helped the humans adapt to their new continent.
In fact, the gnomes claim that it was they that helped spread the humans’ language of Old Common amongst the other races, transforming it into the Common language of Khorvaire.
The gnomes, with their endless desire for knowledge, became information traders with the humans across Khorvaire. Loremaster Dorius Alyre ir’Korran dedicated his life to the gathering of knowledge from the Dhakaani and Daelkyr Empires. With knowledge donated by the three great city-states, Korran created the great Library of Korranberg.
The Rise of House Sivis
2,800 years ago, the gnomes of the Sivis clan became the third race to manifest a dragonmark. These gnomes manifested the Mark of Scribing. Fearing an outcast status with the other clans, the gnomes of the Sivis clan quickly used their aptitude in the arcane arts to master their dragonmarks. Soon, Sivis began to tap into their marks’ abilities, using their spell-like powers to aide the other clans.
Unbeknownst to the gnomes at the time, the Sivis clan would set the mold of what would eventually become a dragonmarked house: consolidation of all dragonmarked family lines within one larger clan, who would use their marks for profit and create a large commercial mercantile force. The Sivis clan used their diplomatic nature to reach out to the other marked races, and they began the creation of the true Dragonmarked Houses.
The gnomes of House Sivis are the carriers of the Mark of Scribing and through their Speakers Guild they offer service as both translators and mediators between different races but also as using their Sending Stones instant, long distance communication in their more powerful members.
House Sivis also has its hand in the business as notories, using their arcane mark and illusory script to certify documents or create documents that can only be read by the intended recipient. Unmarked members are usually translators, mediators, messengers and some truely charismatic gnomes become diplomats.
The Formation of Zilargo
About 2,400 years ago, a human warlord named Malleon the Reaver plied the eastern and southern coasts of Khorvaire, from the Lhazaar Sea towards the southwest coast. Malleon plundered a large number of settlements along the southern coast of Khorvaire, including the remaining kobold and goblin settlements. And towards the north, a human named Karrn the Conqueror was also setting his sights on subjugating the disparate human territories.
In the wake of such threats, the three gnome city-states formed a closer alliance. Trolanport, Korranberg, and Zolanberg joined forces to provide a united front against the forces of Malleon and Karrn. From the three city-states, they created a single nation, which they named Zilargo, or “The Home of the Wise” in the gnomish language.
The three city-states formed a unified government, called the Triumvirate. While each city-state was still ruled by one of their Council of Nine, one representative from each council was chosen to form a new ruling body to oversee the united nation. This new nation of Zilargo faced the threat of Malleon’s sea marauders. Luckily, Malleon set his sight on a bigger target: the last remaining goblin city of Duur’shaarat. With his eye on a bigger prize, Malleon’s attacks on the gnome settlements were ancillary, and easily defendable by the unified gnome nation.
At some unknown point after the formation of Zilargo, the Triumvirate sought to find a way to keep their nation unified. In order to police a populace that prizes secrets and knowledge above all, a mysterious gnome known only as “the Proctor” created the Trust, a secret police force within the gnomish nation. Anyone could be recruited within this police force, and even a gnome’s lifelong friend may, in fact, be an agent of this order. The gnomes used this secret police to keep the population in-line, and the Trust still operate this way to this day.
While all the Dragonmarked Houses have a presence in this important city, House Kundarak, House Sivis and House Cannith have major enclaves in the gnomish capital. The House Cannith operation is under the direction of Cannith South, whose baron, Merrix d’Cannith, resides in Sharn.
Trolanport was a Dhakaani city 10,000 years ago, but the gnomes built the metropolis that has become their capital on its foundations when the wars with the Daelkyr caused a depopulation of the hobgoblins of the region.
The port city is designed on a canal system and is the center for gnomish shipbuilding of both the naval and aerial variety. Trolanport is also a center of trade for Khorvaire and one of the major departure ports for Xen’drik, Aerenal and Sarlona. With the growth of Stormreach in the past two centuries, the nation of Zilargo has ensured that Trolanport has become known as the main link between Khorvaire and Xen’drik.
Zolanberg is a small city in the Seawall Mountains of Zilargo. It lies at the eastern end of an east-west Orien trade road and is one of two major stops for the Lightning Rail in Zilargo, the other being Korranberg.
The gnomish city of Zolanberg was built on the foundations of a Dhakaani city, whose name is lost to history. The city was abandoned by the hobgoblins during the Daelkyr War. The gnomes occupied the abandoned city and gleaned the knowledge of magic, engineering and architecture that the Dhakaani had left behind to build the city that still exists there today.
Zolanberg is primarily a mining town. Its elevated location up in the Seawalls is not a coincidence, and there is a vast web of gem mines surrounding the city.
House Kundarak protects Zolanberg’s gem inventory in a huge vault within the city. House Tharashk operates a significant operation in the city via the Prospector’s Guild and recently built a large new facility. Other Dragonmarked Houses also have a presence in Zolanberg, including Sivis message stations and, of course, the Orien Lightning Rail station.
The city of Korranberg is the oldest city in Zilargo and, despite not being the capital of the nation, is arguably the most important city. Home to the vaunted Library of Korranberg, which is more than a library, but perhaps the greatest collection of knowledge on the world of Eberron and among the best universities.
The center of gnomish knowledge is also one of its centers of political power. The Triumvirate, that rules Zilargo from Trolanport, was originally instituted as a governing body at the Library of Korranberg. One of its representatives is still chosen from Korranberg.
The city itself, like Trolanport and Zolanberg, is administered by a Council of Nine, from which the city’s triumvir is chosen. Several of the members of this Council are also rumoured to be members of the Aurum.
All of the Houses have a presence in Korranberg. However, House Sivis, whose most ancient enclave is in the city is among the most important. House Cannith and House Kundarak also have important presences in the city.
The Gnomish Exploration of Xen’drik
In -1,600 YK, a group of gnome explorers attempted to settle on the southern continent of Xen’drik, on the site of modern-day Stormreach. However, the settlement was short-lived, and after some months a handful of survivors returned to Zilargo claiming to have been repulsed by the giant tribes. In recent years the scholar Hegan Del Dorianhas advanced the theory that this was a cover story hiding what really happened; he points to the written testimony of a gnome sailor who speaks of a “darkness that gripped both body and soul.”
In 793 YK, a gnome named Byrnid Dojurn convinced the Doyenne of House Sivis to fund a trip to Xen’drik to unlock the long-lost giant ability to bond elementals to items. Byrnid Dojurn’s expedition was successful, and he returned with the information on how to master this lost art. Within the next decade, the arcane artisans of Zilargo began creating elemental vessels, such as airships and the lightning rail. Eventually the gnomes would share this knowledge with House Cannith, House Orien and House Lyrander, instrumental in the creation of the Lightning Rail and Airships.
The Stormreach Compact
The gnome Kolis Sel Shadra was known by his reputation as the smuggler who had never lost a cargo. Kolis Sel Shadra himself who appeared in Thronehold to offer the king of Galifar a truce — if the king would offer the four most powerful pirate captains an amnesty and recognised their political authority over Stormreach. In return, these four would use their influence to disperse the pirates. In 802 YK the Stormreach Compact was signed, seeing the end of the war between the pirates and Galifar and the formation of the Coin Lords of Stormreach.
The Sel Shadras of Zilargo were known to be smugglers, but there were always rumours that they were behind some of the unsolved mysteries of the Thunder Sea. Some said that the sea’s ghost ships and demon pirates were gnome illusions, cleverly woven by Sel Shadra bards. True or not, the Sel Shadras encouraged the rumours and benefited from the reputation.
Our campaign (includes spoilers!)
In our campaign, the Sel Shadra family in Stormreach were casualties of the Omaren Revolt and their place on the Coin Lords was taken by the Wylkes family, weakening any remnants of allegiance with Galifar.
House Sivis do not have an enclave in Stormreach, but instead have a small representation in the Tower of the Twelve including a Sending Stone for communication with other House Sivis dragonmarked.
Seemingly uninvolved in the momentous events that take place throughout our campaign, there is little doubt that House Sivis have been quietly working in the background, documenting these events and ensuring that the nation of Zilargo is aware of developments in the city.